Lal referred to the population increase; the projected decline in arable land in 30 countries by 2025; as well as the limited water supply and renewable water sources that are affecting more than 4 billion people, as some of the obstacles to achieving the SDGs.
San Jose, 26 September 2022 (IICA). Rattan Lal—the 2020 World Food Prize laureate and a scientist considered as the world’s leading authority in social sciences—urged senior agricultural officials of the Americas to address ten key issues that are threatening the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He also recommended a series of actions to further global climate action.
Lal proposed these measures at a meeting of ministers, secretaries and high-level officials from the ministries of Agriculture of the hemisphere. The session was convened by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to discuss the strategic role of the region’s agriculture sector in tackling climate change, in preparation for November’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt.
Lal, the Institute’s Special Envoy to COP27, cited examples such as the 1.14 million and 7.5 million population increase per year and per month, respectively; the declining amount of arable land in 30 countries, which will drop from 2.2 hectares per capita to less than 0.07 hectares by 2025; as well as the shortage of water and renewable water resources that are affecting more than 4 billion people, as just some of the stumbling blocks to achieving the SDGs.
Lal—an IICA Goodwill Ambassador and IICA Chair in Soil Sciences—also mentioned other factors, namely, “the concentration of carbon dioxide; global use of fossil fuel-based energy; per capita grain consumption, ranging from a very high 80kg in developing countries to a very low level in under-developed countries; the 820 million people worldwide who are experiencing hunger, due to the 3 Cs – COVID-19, climate change and conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine; global CO2 emissions of 5.4 metric tons; and humanity’s water footprint (500 m³ per year)”.
In addressing the meeting, Lal, who is also a professor at the University of Ohio, listed a series of events that occur every minute somewhere in the world and that are issues of concern for agriculture, food security and climate action.
“Regrettably, every minute, 17 people in the world die from hunger, 25 hectares are deforested, clean or drinking water is lost, 1.1 Jules of energy are consumed, 5.6 hectares of arable land are lost, 10 hectares of soil are degraded and 20 gigagrams of carbon dioxide are emitted. Not to mention, recently there have been 20 million refugees from the Ukraine”, he warned.
Therefore, in a bid to transform this bleak panorama, the award-winning scientist proposed five objectives to the agricultural authorities: make headway in achieving the SDGs by 2025; use renewable energy to decarbonize agriculture; foster carbon sequestration in the soil and trees; undertake a nitrous oxide assessment, as it is more potent that carbon dioxide; and restore degraded soils.
With a view to raising the profile of the region’s agriculture sector at COP27 and beyond, Lal also proposed that the Americas highlight successful examples of conservation agriculture in South America, for example, in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
“Empower farmers by paying for ecosystem services; leave no culture, no country and no farmer behind”, he urged, while also mentioning strategies, such as “developing or strengthening public-private sector partnerships to pay for ecosystem services and to help us move from science to action”.
In reference to climate action and adaptation and mitigation measures, Lal also reflected that, “There is no need to invent new programs if we don’t implement them”, while urging the participants to properly execute programs that have already been developed by different entities.
He stressed that, “I would suggest that we need to identify eco-sensitive regions, where carbon sequestration can provide numerous benefits, and that are regions that are financially valuable. The tropical rainforests and the Andes zone are also important”.
Topics for discussion at COP27
In his presentation to the ministers, secretaries and senior executives of the ministries of Agriculture of the Americas, he proposed that the agriculture sector of the region should consider placing the use and development of indigenous knowledge on the discussion table at COP27, in combination with current expertise and scientific innovation.
“Education with an environmental focus is critical, at all levels, so that children will know where food comes from, how a healthy soil looks and how a clean environment looks. We must develop nature-positive agriculture sectors and land-based solutions; this is important. I also suggest that we implement a national action plan that provides a program, an agenda at the national level for everything related to water and that we develop a global or national carbon plan. In addition, we must aim for a 5 centigrade reduction in global warming”.
Lal believes, if the countries implement these plans and agendas, they would be in a better position to demand that developed countries provide the “one billion dollars that have been promised” for climate change adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries.
The Institute’s Special Envoy to COP27 concluded by indicating to the agricultural authorities that after the Summit it would be important to procure “increased and more transparent funding for science-based agriculture and a mechanism to pay farmers for ecosystem services”.
“We can demand financial compensation and receive financial compensation only for those countries that implement indigenous agricultural and food systems”, he said.
Institutional Communication Division